Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Let Go and Let God: A story of a monkey and a banana, a Casting Crowns song, and my own stubbornness

This post is about a monkey and a banana, a Casting Crowns song, and my stubbornness. Those may sound like completely random things but all play a part in my learning to “let go and let God.” 

We all have flaws after all we are human. Two of my biggest flaws are my stubbornness and my need for control. I like to do things my way, after all I tend to think it’s the best way so why wouldn’t I want to do it my way? See, controlling and stubborn. So you can imagine when I have a certain plan for my life I don’t easily let it go. So it’s safe to assume I didn’t like or appreciate being thrown some curveballs this past August and September. They didn’t fit into my plan for my life. I found God trying to show me the same lesson I have yet to learn; once again he was showing me that I am not in control and once again I argued back. Which brings me to the first part of my story.  This was not the first time God and I had words on the subject. This has been a long term lesson and one I have a hard time learning. 


An illustration that I once heard a preacher use in a sermon several years ago has stuck with me.  The story was on the monkey and the coconut. For those of you who have not heard the story it is about a form of trapping monkeys. To trap the monkeys they used a coconut and they would hollow it out and put a banana inside. The hole would be made just big enough that the monkey could slip his hand in the coconut and grab hold of the banana, but not wide enough for the monkey to bring out the yummy treat. The coconut would  then be bolted to a chain with the other end of the chain secured to a tree. The monkey would  come along and slide his hand into the coconut grabbing hold of the banana. The problem is apparent when he goes to pull out his treat. He cannot get his hand free. He will try to bring the banana out to no avail. He will try and yank the coconut off the chain so he can take coconut and all with him. He will become enraged when he realizes he has been trapped. He will continuously bang his fist against the tree trying to free his hand and the banana. All the monkey has to do is to let go of the banana and he will be free. All he has to do is let go. Instead the monkey will fight the coconut and chain. He will fight even when the trapper is coming to for him, or if the trapper is delayed in returning he will come back to a battered and broken spirited monkey still gripping the banana, becoming an easy target. It is easy to see why this has stayed with me all of these years. I get the monkey. In many ways I am like the monkey, I hold on to my sense of control, to my plan for my life. I refuse to let it go. 

Eventually I will share the whole story of those crazy few months that all began August 26th, the day I went in for my 28 week appointment. I continue to type it out as time allows or when the memories really hit. But for now I will skim through and just hit a few of the big things from that time. The biggest parts come down to two things; the  very premature birth of Kaleb and the birth diagnosis of Down syndrome.

 I felt cheated. I felt angry. I felt heartbroken. I felt cheated out of the rest of my pregnancy and out of the typical labor and delivery experience. I felt cheated out of the last three months with Kaden before little brother was set to arrive. I felt cheated out of the newborn phase. Many have said at least Kaleb was your second, can you imagine going through this if he was your first? Well in the hospital in some ways I believe it made it harder. You see I had a typical delivery the first time around so when I was in my postpartum room I was reminded of Kaden’s birth. There I was again in a hospital bed with TJ again sleeping over on the couch. However, one thing was missing, a baby in between us. I was uniquely aware since it was my second that usually there would be diapers, blankets, pacifiers, and other baby items around the room. Instead the only baby item to be found was one little trial size baby soap that I don’t know where it came from. I kept staring at the poster talking about the importance of “the golden hour,” the hour of bonding that the mother gets after birth with her baby. It too was just another painful reminder of something else I was cheated out of. Nights were hard, visitors would be gone and TJ and I would walk back together to our room after leaving the NICU. We would walk past the rooms with Mommas and Daddys admiring their newest edition or couples being discharged with their brand new baby. Several nights one or both of us would have tears by the time we got back to room 2213. 

Two days later another bomb was dropped. Kaleb has Down syndrome. Talk about a change in my plan for my life. I can’t begin to write, nor would I want to the next few hours in my hospital room. I’ll admit it wasn’t my greatest hour. Slowly we tried to move past the initial grief, because yes it was grief. You grieve the loss of the future, the future that all of a sudden looks different for our child than the one we had planned and the unknown is terrifying. We tried to move past the overwhelming initial grief to a processing but functional mindset. While I worked to process this latest news I felt frozen in my frustration and hurt. Had I not dealt with enough already? I was already signing on for an extended NICU stay and the newborn phase that dealt with wires and machines. Wasn't that enough? 

I remember going to church a couple of weeks after having Kaleb. It seemed that every where I looked I saw mothers with their big beautiful pregnant bellies or mothers holding on to their young children. I was heartbroken. That was suppose to be me! I somehow held my emotions in and didn’t let the tears out that were threatening to spill as we walked in to take our seats. I remember the worship team beginning to lead worship and a lady with this beautiful voice was leading the song. I didn’t know her but I remember becoming angry. I could just picture her, this beautiful and stylish lady with her beautiful voice, who probably had her beautiful family. A family that I could picture, she probably even had two beautiful boys. I could even picture this beautiful family smiling in their family photos. They would be smiling as if they didn't have a care in the world as the pictures hung in their beautiful house. If they did have problems or worries  it was probably something trivial, something most wished were the “problems” in their life. It was irrational but the anger and frustration were there. I was battling to accept my new reality. I wanted the life I had pictured, that I had planned on having. I didn’t sign up for a full team of specialists, therapies, and other unknown and unwanted components. 

The newest Casting Crowns song “Just Be Held” had already became one of the new tracks on my playlist with its beautiful lyrics, but in September it became the official soundtrack for that time in my life. It was as if that song was on auto repeat in my head. 

Just Be Held lyrics:
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm you'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross you'll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you'll understand
I'm painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I'll hold your heart
I'll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won't let go

So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held (stop holding on)
Just be held

I would love to say that after those first couple of weeks that I quickly came to grips with this new life that I had been handed, but that would not be the truth. It took a while. It took longer than I led those around me to believe. I loved Kaleb and accepted him, he was mine, but I was angry at God. I questioned him and His plan. I couldn’t let go. Why did Kaleb have to face these obstacles? I banged and banged my fist trying to hold on to the life I had envisioned for Kaleb and for us as a family. I slowly began to understand that I was the monkey. I was chained by my control and banging and banging my fist trying to hold on to my plan. It would never work. I would simply be like the monkey and become battered, broken, and in my case bitter. Or I could let go and trust in Him. Even if this meant that I had to pray and let it go every day as I continued to try and grab hold of my old idea and plan. I would play the song over and over again. My favorite part being “Your worlds not falling apart, it’s falling into place.” Slowly I began to let go. As I did I experienced many emotions as I watched my son fight to grow and for his chance at life. 

Kaleb has opened the door to emotions, people, and experiences we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Are they always experiences I would have picked such as the extended NICU stay or team full of specialists, no. But I am thankful for them and the care they have given him and it has opened my eyes to new communities of people. Groups such as other fellow NICU travelers, both past and present. The Down syndrome community that continues to amaze me with their support for each other, as well as various other groups of people that due to health issues we have a common bond. It has brought awareness and compassion for those with special health needs. 

Kaleb may only be a few months old but God has already used him to open my eyes and make me a better version of myself than I was before. No matter what else Kaleb does in his life, one of his purposes will forever be to serve as a constant reminder to me to let go. Let go of the limitations of what I am capable of envisioning for my life and to fully trust in Him. As the song says, “I’m making beauty from the ashes, your life is in my hands.” I continue to pray that I let go of my control, my stubbornness, and my plan in order to experience life, whatever form that takes. To let go and let God. 





4 comments:

  1. Amanda, this story is open and honest and simply beautiful. God has used you as a testimony to His purpose for each of us. You are the vessel whether you realized it or not. I read every post you wrote during the NICU weeks and was amazed at your faith and strength. My admiration grew daily and I cannot wait to meet this wonderful baby, Kaleb. I would love for you to come talk to my class about this journey and raising a Down's Syndrome child. Your message would be powerful. Love you and TJ! Bobbie Wintz

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  2. Beautifully said! We all share different storms in life yet the emotions and thoughts are shared. I've walked this road albeit for different reasons. Thank you for giving it voice!

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  3. Beautifully written! Your stubborness and control will benefit Kaleb throughout his life! I hope someday you will write a book!

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  4. I too like to control and have things all planned out. It's probably been one of the most challenging times remembering to let go and let God. I start to feel so overwhelmed and simply realize I've taken it back into my own hands. Very well said and I love the monkey analogy.
    Thank you for sharing your raw words and being so honest. It helps us other parents realize so many lessons.

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